HAMPTON — It wasn’t too long ago that Joey Logano was racing around Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder track chasing his NASCAR dreams.
Now, on his 24th birthday, Logano is one of the professional racing circuit’s hottest drivers as he enters Sunday’s Sprint All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
And for Logano there aren’t many places that he’d rather be on his birthday weekend than preparing for a NASCAR race.
“I guess I’ll just be celebrating behind the wheel of the No. 22 Pennzoil Platinum Ford,” Logano said in a press conference. “I’m totally focused on practice on Saturday. But maybe Saturday night, I’ll go out to dinner. But not too late. The night before a race, I try and get as much sleep as possible and be ready. I mean, it’s not that big of deal. Birthdays when you are 24 aren’t like they were when you were 12. It’s really just another day of the week.”
But Sundays on the track is what he lives for these days.
He is in sixth place in the Sprint Cup standings with two weeks in the books so far this season.
Logano has done well in 10 starts at Charlotte with eight top-10 finishes, including three top-5 finishes at the track. His best finish came in 2011 when he finished third. Last year, Logano was fifth at the Coca-Cola 600 and was 18th in last fall’s Chase race there.
“Any time you go to Charlotte, it’s kind of everyone’s home track,” Logano said. “Everyone knows that. Everyone knows that most race teams are here. Your friends go out there. So it makes it a really big deal to win. Also it’s the Coke 600, it’s one of the crown jewel events that we have, which makes it a big deal.”
Driving the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, Logano is beginning to live up to the high expectations everyone placed on him when he entered the Sprint Cup series six years ago. He was being hailed at the time as the next racing superstar.
The one-time Alpharetta resident — who was a champion at AMS’s Thursday Thunder grassroots racing circuit — is in sixth place in the Cup standings heading into Sunday’s race. He has two victories in 11 starts this season and is locked into the Chase for a second straight year.
Kevin Harvick is the only other driver with multiple wins this season. Logano has six top-five finishes, tied for best, and has led 447 laps over all, good for third highest.
“The way our season is going right now, and the speed we’ve had at short tracks, mile-and-a-halfs, two-miles, pretty much every type of racetrack we’ve gone to so far we’ve had a lot of speed and led laps,” Logano said. “We’ve led laps at every single race so far except California where we had a gear break on us before we were able to get there.”
On a side note this weekend, a driver will attempt to race both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
Kurt Busch will attempt that feat in pulling a double-duty, driving at Indy for Andretti Autosport.
The green flag is at noon for open-wheel’s biggest race at the Brickyard. Later that afternoon, he’ll jet down to Charlotte to drive his No. 41 Haas Automation Made in America Chevrolet for the 6 p.m. start of NASCAR’s longest race.
The eight previous double-dips have been divided up by only three drivers – John Andretti (1994), Robby Gordon (1997, 2000, ’02, ’03, ’04) and Tony Stewart (’99 and ’01). Stewart has had the best results in the daring double-duty with a sixth place finish at Indy and third place finish at Charlotte in 2001, in the process becoming the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles between the two races.
Busch qualified 12th for the Indianapolis 500.
“It’s not like I’m putting my career or my credentials on the line to prove anything,” Busch said in a press conference. “This is a moment to check off something on my bucket list but also challenge myself to see where I can end up in this open wheel rank at one of the most difficult races in the world.”